Arizona congressman details his road to Harvard as a 1st-gen college student to make a statement

KATIE KINDELAN
·4 min read

An Arizona congressman who was the first in his family to attend college is sharing how he managed to graduate from Harvard University, despite the odds.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, took to Twitter Monday to share his experience in response to comments made by presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who graduated from Harvard in 2003, one year prior to Gallego.

Kushner drew criticism for saying on "Fox & Friends" that President Donald Trump wants to help Black people in America, but they have to “want to be successful" for his policies to work.

“President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about, but he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful," said Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter, fellow presidential adviser, Ivanka Trump.

MORE: What it's like to be a first-gen student at an Ivy League school: 'It felt like we grew up in different universes'

Gallego wrote in response to Kushner's comments, "This how the 1% look at minorities. I was a classmate of Kushner let me tell you what I did to get into Harvard compared to what he did."

In his Twitter thread, Gallego, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2014, described how he had to start in his freshman year of high school going above and beyond to make sure he could attend college.

"My freshman year of HS. I realized that the only way college was gonna happen was that first I had to do well on my exams," he wrote. "So I started buying used prep exam books and copying exams from the library. The school librarian is a close friend to this day. (Thanks Mrs. Conley)."

"I was lucky enough to have a job that let me practice my tests in between flipping burgers. (Thank you Steve and Souzy’s)," he wrote. "I used that money to pay for extracurriculars that would look good on a college resume. Even went to Greece on exchange."

Gallego said he did not know anyone at Harvard, so he used the student directory to look up students who "had a Latino sounding name" and left them voicemails in hopes they could offer guidance.

"A few returned my calls and helped guide me to get ready to apply for college. Thank you Gus!," he wrote.

MORE: At the center of the immigration debate, 1st-generation college students are revolutionizing campuses

In his senior year of high school, Gallego applied to Harvard and figured out the financial aid requirements for tuition on his own.

PHOTO: Representative Ruben Gallego speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2020. (Greg Nash/The Hill via Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Representative Ruben Gallego speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2020. (Greg Nash/The Hill via Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE)

"I am might be the only student to apply to Harvard using money orders but [I] did it," he wrote. "Use[sic] a friends computer to apply (thank you Kobelt family) Figure our how to do estimated taxes, to do the FAFSA."

When it came time for his admission interviews in Chicago, Gallego had to tackle getting to them using public transportation, including taking buses and walking a mile to one interview site.

"My interviewer hadn’t ever had an applicant take public transportation to see her. Was surprised when I told her I was taking it back home. She was kind enough to drop me off at the CTA stop," he wrote. "Second interviewer wanted to meet in area with no access to public transportation. School gave me permission to meet him downtown in his office."

Gallego, a son of Hispanic immigrants, went onto graduate from Harvard in 2004. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq in 2005, according to his Congressional biography.

His tweets about what it took for him to reach Harvard as a first-generation student received tens of thousands of likes.

"I’m showing this in class. My kids don’t have resources but they are resourceful," wrote one commenter. "Had a homeless girl who slept in a park w her family & showed up after walking to campus to take an exam she had to have to graduate. She passed it. True grit. Resilience. I’ll take it!"

Arizona congressman details his road to Harvard as a 1st-gen college student to make a statement originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com